Monthly Archives: January 2013

Meadow Brook Hall awarded $18,000 operational grant



Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

For the second year, Meadow Brook Hall has received a Program for Operational and Project Support grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The Hall, which was named a National Historic Landmark last summer, received $18,000 to be used toward operating support and curatorial needs, according to Kim Zelinski, director of museum operations and advancement.

“We’re happy to see that the funding increased. Hopefully that’s a good sign that the economy is getting better,” Zelinski said. “For a while, with the arts, a lot of funding was cut. It becomes really competitive. For us, it’s great to see that increase; it’s an indication that good things are meant to come.”

Typically, the Hall hosts eight exhibits, from the month-long Holiday Walk to student photography exhibits, according to Zelinski. The Hall also does community outreach, for example, teaming up with Mt. Clemens Anton/Frankel Center and OU departments to give students and community more art experiences.

The grant selection is a competitive process, according to John Bracey, executive director for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Meadow Brook’s grant application was reviewed and scored by a panel of peers before submission to the governor’s council for funding.

Last year, the Hall received $8,000. Bracey said the monetary boost is due in part to “a very generous increase for fiscal year 2013 from the governor and the legislature in our appropriation.” Grant funds went up from $2.1 million last fiscal year to $5.6 million for 2013.

Statewide, 402 requests were made for funding this year, and 312 grants were fulfilled. Oakland County alone was awarded 28 grants for arts and culture events with funds totaling $609,150, according to Bracey.

“It was recognized by the government’s office the impact that arts and cultural organizations have not only on their communities, and in terms of quality of life, but also on the economy in general as they’re working toward reinventing the state,” Bracey said.

Arts and culture help build the economy, employing about 15,000 full-time employees and providing work for 52,000 contract Michigan artists through the funded organizations, according to Bracey. But he said the impact of these institutions go beyond financial.

“Because of the services (arts and culture) provides to kids, the quality of life and the sense of place in communities are invaluable,” Bracey said. “It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on the impact that arts experience can have for a young person. The Hall is a wonderful space and museum, and the history of it is really impressive and they should be proud of the work that they do.”


There’s a tea trend brewing among young, health conscious

Teavana associate Lauren Delmonico, right, shows a customer the Wild Orange Blossom loose tea. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL

Teavana associate Lauren Delmonico, right, shows a customer the Wild Orange Blossom loose tea. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL





Stephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

It can be prepared in many ways, and taste is up to the brewer. Tea, the world’s second most popular beverage behind water, has soared in popularity during the past 10 years.

Americans drank over 3 billion gallons of tea in 2011, 85 percent of that black tea, 14 percent green tea and the rest oolong or white, noted the Tea Association of the USA, which is based in New York.

“(Tea is) now well over an $8 billion category, with growth in different areas — not only in the specialty tea segment, which are the more premium teas and the flavored teas — but also in the raised drink segment, which has been quite a big driver in this category,” said Peter Goggi, tea association vice president. “Tea has benefited very much so from its healthful positioning.”

Health benefits

Tea has the ability to relieve stress, improve heart health and potentially prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, according to WebMD. The site cites tea as a “superfood” with polyphenol antioxidants and flavonoids, both healthy.

“Nowadays, tea is a little bit trendier,” said Liz Webster, assistant manager at Lakeside Mall’s Teavana. “People see it on shows like ‘Doctor Oz’ and come in seeking tea for its health benefits.”

In addition to providing nutrition, tea can act as a pick-me-up, providing caffeine, though in a more balanced way than coffee, according to Alan Laszuk, tea consultant for the American Tea Masters Association, based in San Diego, Calif. Laszuk offers training in tea preparation.

“Tea does not distribute caffeine to the body in the same way that coffee does,” Laszuk said.

“Coffee is like an injection of caffeine where you get all of it at one time and then you peak and crash afterwards,” he explained. “Because of the theanine in tea, the caffeine enters your system in a brand new manner, so you tend to be more alert mentally and your heart rate doesn’t start to rise.”

The taste of tea

Bigelow Tea is the No. 1 specialty tea company in the U.S., said Elaine Gavoli, Bigelow communications manager. The brand has 120 varieties of tea, and has



people researching the latest trends and preferences among customers through social media and grocery store statistics.

“We here at Bigelow like to think tea’s popularity growth is because it tastes so good,” Gavoli said. “We make all of our teas to please the pallet — it’s a taste profile that we’re going after, and we hope that people are enjoying teas for that reason.”

While Bigelow is mainly bag teas, stores such as Teavana offer loose tea that the drinker measures out and steeps, for more flavor, Webster said. Its sample Chai-Chai blend, made up of Macaraza Chai and Cinnamon Tea, is one of the store’s top-sellers.

The largest tea producing areas are found in China, Taiwan and Japan, each of which has influenced tea drinking in the U.S., Laszuk said. While all countries have played a part, he said England has most shaped U.S. preparation of tea with its traditional tea bag preparation.

Half of the U.S. population drinks tea daily, 85 percent being iced, with ready-to-drink tea growing by more than 17.5 percent, according to the Tea Association of the United States.

Laszuk said that while people attending his training seek healthiness, the taste is crucial. For a stronger cup, he said, people can steep tea in boiling water, but typically most people leave it for about four minutes to avoid bitterness.

“The first thing people seem to discuss is the health benefits, which seems to be driving people,” Laszuk said. “But the flavor, from my experience talking with people in the tea business, I’d say its 80 percent flavor and 20 percent health benefits. Everybody’s interested in the health benefits, and there are some things very apparent with tea not in coffee.”

Growing popularity among young people

While tea is popular among many age groups, Laszuk said, 70 percent of tea drinkers attending his sessions are college age.

“Tea, like music, has many eras,” he said. “This is a new era for tea.”

Tea has gone through style and development changes over the years, Laszuk said, though the most success occurs for tea shops close to colleges.

Oakland University Junior Lindsey Brendel just started drinking tea. She said she likes the health benefits and the flavor. Her favorites are Taj Mahal Chai and green tea.

Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak is my favorite tea house,” Brendel said. “The perfect combination is to see an independent film at the Main Art Theater and talk over tea after. It’s a good beverage to converse while drinking.”

Health benefits aside, tea offers something other drinks can’t, which is what makes it attractive to its drinkers.

“The bottom line is this: Tea tastes good,” Goggi said.

“It’s refreshing, you can make it any way you want. You’re not limited to what someone hands you. You can start with a tea bag, some loose tea, you can brew it yourself, make it as strong as you want, add whatever you want. It’s completely up to you, the brewer, as to how you consume your tea.”

Fire and Ice brings family fun to Rochester



Stephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

Ice sculpting, family events and food enticed a record crowd estimated at 30,000 to the Rochester Fire & Ice Festival last weekend.

The turnout was the most in the festival’s six years, according to Stephanie Hellebuyck, Rochester Downtown Development Association events coordinator.

“Fire and Ice is a great family event,” Hellebuyck said. “Oakland County came together with Rochester to embrace winter, and I think we did that.”

The festival is a collaboration of the Rochester DDA committee and Oakland County. Businesses sponsored ice sculptures, which were provided by Finesse Catering Team. Click here for a slide show of the ice sculptures (by Mark McMillan).

Dining and entertainment

In addition to live music, local venders brought culinary creations to the TasteFest and Beer Tent.

New to downtown, Holy Cannoli’s brought its 75 flavors of the dessert to the festival. The bakery sells specialty, handmade, family-recipe cannolis.

“The Fire and Ice Festival brought us exposure,” co-owner Kathy Schulte said. “The family atmosphere here is really wonderful. It’s such a special event.”

Other entertainment in the tent included face painting.

Community involvement

Soave Enterprises, Hour Detroit, Royal Park and Genisys Credit Union were among sponsors. Oakland County Parks and Recreation helped with operations.

“I think it’s a great event for families to get out and participate in physical activity in the winter,” Laurie Stasiak, parks and recreations supervisor, said. “It’s a good time here; everyone is happy.”

The Rochester Lions Club hosted its annual warming tent and s’mores bonfire, providing a break from the cold. The group has worked with the festival since its beginning, said David McKenzie, Lions Club Fire and Ice Event coordinator.

All proceeds raised by the organization go to charities, specifically Leader Dogs for the Blind, said Dennis Scott, Lions Club member, adding that through events, members have raised and contributed $60,000.

“I think (the festival) is great,” McKenzie said. “The DDA is doing a great job with it, and it’s fun to meet people. Rochester is really evolving.”

Encouraging physical activity

???????????????????????????????Outdoor fitness, tubing and exercise were incorporated into the festival’s events. Sunday, skaters from the Onyx and Suburban Ice showcased their skills at an ice skating expo.

Stephen Jacob of Macomb brought his daughter Rachel to the expo to skate. Rachel does competitions, but this was her first experience skating at the festival.

“It’s kind of cool because kids can get involved in the festival,” Stephen Jacob said. “Skating gives kids something constructive to do. I like Rachel competing because it prepares her to be a leader.”

Wendy and Tom Gueth brought Shimei Wang, Oakland University international scholar, for her last day here before she returned to China. Wendy Gueth said they enjoyed the festival.

“We came to the event because we wanted to go tubing,” she said. “It was our first time here. It’s an event that appeals to all ages. The tubing was very fun and the fire pit and s’mores were adorable.”

Gina and Timothy Dewey, owners of Shemhadar Dog Sled Adventures in Cadillac brought their canines to take people sledding. A trainer sled allows kids and adults to practice “driving” the dogs.

“This is by far one of the best festivals we’ve been to,” Gina Dewey said. “The staff is friendly and helpful. Everything is run great and we can sense the sense of family in this community; the parents really care about their kids.”

Parks and Rec also offered free cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with staff members instructing.

“We have a strong belief in promoting health,” said Matt Bierlein, seasonal parks and recreation coordinator. “It gives young kids an opportunity to get a feel for winter sports.”

OU News Bureau reporter Mark McMillan took the photos and put together the slide show.

Student Organic Farming Program receives $20,400 grant

1Stephanie Sokol for

The Oakland Post

The Americana Foundation awarded the Student Organic Farming Program with a $20,400 grant which will be matched by the university.
The money the group received will be used toward work with farm expansion and maintaining staff, according to Fay Hansen, associate professor of biological sciences.

The foundation behind the grant
The Americana Foundation’s website, their mission is to “support educational and advocacy programs that address the preservation of American agriculture, the conservation of natural resources and the protection and presentation of expressions of America’s heritage,” according to the foundation’s website.
The group provided the grant to SOFP after visiting Baldwin Center and seeing what goes on there, according to Hansen.
She said the foundation supports a number of local sustainable farming projects in the state.
“This funding is really important to us because it will fund our farm manager, Jared Bogdanov-Hanna, for close to full-time, which we really need because of our farm’s expansion,” Hansen said.
The SOFP received a grant in 2011 from Learn and Serve America, through the Midwest Compact Consortium, aimed at “development of the student farm’s academic and service-learning programs,” according to Hansen.
That grant made it possible to hire a farm manager, though this funding is the program’s first from a private foundation.
“The program and club teach people about where their food comes from and how to work with the environment,” assistant farm manager Billy Purri said. “(Working at the farm) has been a great real-world experience, and this grant will help us be more efficient.”

The goals of the group
The SOFP works to “raise awareness about food choices, sustainability and health for OU students,” providing organic, farm-grown food for sales at the campus farm stand, as well as the Pontiac area, according to Hansen.
Community efforts include volunteering at the Baldwin and Kennedy Centers in Pontiac. Hanna plays a role in overseeing farm projects.
“My responsibilities include day-to-day work at the farm as well as leading projects and working with students,” Hanna said. “The farm was student-initiated in 2008. Every year the farm has grown, and we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s a great way to get exposure and hands-on learning with local food.”

Gigi’s Cupcakes: Everything’s baked and decorated in-house

Stephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

Owner David Gonzalez said the cupcakes are based on family recipes. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL

Looking for a place to have great food and a good time? OU News Bureau reporters have visited some distinctive eateries in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties to learn more about what these places have to offer. Reporter Stephanie Sokol visited Gigi’s Cupcakes, owned by couple David and Nicole Gonzalez, in Macomb.

Tell me about the history of this place.
This location of Gigi’s is owned by me (David) and Nicole Gonzalez. It opened

By: Stephanie Sokol

By: Stephanie Sokol

last March and is part of a franchise, with the original location found in Nashville, Tenn.  The story behind the original cupcake shop was that Gigi was cleaning houses and working at Red Lobster in Nashville as she tried to become a singer. Her brother was a traveling stunt driver, working in movies. After he went into a crowded cupcake place while in New York, he told them they needed to start their own, so the original Gigi’s was born.

Describe what it offers patrons.
The cupcake recipes are based off of family recipes, so they’re not industrialized; they’re still homemade. We’re putting a high-end product out there. I’ve been to a lot of cupcake places and this is more of a boutique-style cupcake. I would call it upscale.

Why would someone want to come here?
I’ve been to a lot of cupcake places before this opened, and I kept finding that they looked great, but they didn’t taste very good. To me, if a cake isn’t good by itself, then it shouldn’t be out there. Frosting’s going to make anything taste good, but the cake has got to stand its test. The customers tell me they love the cupcakes. I have that much faith in it. I’ve had the competitors and I don’t think their (cupcakes) are bad, I just think ours are better.

What do you do that’s different from other places like this?
We don’t sell day-old cupcakes. I bake everything — there’s one baker and three decorators. I think we hold our standards very high. If something doesn’t come out right, we throw it away. We bake in-house. I think we’re a better product.

What’s the one thing everyone should order here?
I can’t tell you, because I don’t know if you like fruit, chocolate or nuts. We have many flavors. It kind of depends on your mood and what you like. My favorite cake is probably the Texas, out of all our cupcakes. It’s like a Texas sheet cake. It’s more like a brownie, not as fluffy, with a taste of cinnamon in it. And our chocolate buttercream frosting is really good.

How many people work here?
Including the owners, eight people work here. All employees are cross-trained to do everything. But because I bake in the morning, the other workers mostly decorate and prep the cupcakes, while focusing on customer service.

What does the future hold for this place?
We were going to open multiple locations in the Detroit area, but we’re still following it out. We’re the only location in Michigan. The closest one would be Dayton, Ohio.

Gigi’s Cupcakes is at 18353 Hall Road, Macomb.
or click on its Facebook at!/GigisCupcakesMacombMichigan?fref=ts

Flavor Flav’s Chicken & Ribs

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Picking up good donations


Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

Formed in 2010, Elijah Nelson and brothers Mark and Jake Hoke make up the Detroit band Royal Hoax. The alternative/pop- rock group is working with Gleaners Community Food Bank on their project Rock4Hunger, while getting their music out at local schools and venue shows.

Behind the music

Nelson, Mark and Jake were originally part of the band Breathing Underwater in 2008. After one of the other members of the band left, Nelson said the three stayed together to form Royal Hoax in 2010.

While the brothers said songs from their self-titled album represent many different things, each has a different meaning based on band members’ life experiences.

“The album is eclectic. My favorite song depends on my mood and what I’m feeling,” Mark said. “Each one’s got its own unique identity. If I’m in an up- beat mood I like ‘Plenty to Burn.’ I like ‘Empty Hollow’ for the way it connects emotionally.”

Performing for a cause

“I went to Waterford Kettering for high school and they let us play a show there for the whole school at an as- sembly,” Mark said. “Since Gleaners is a great organization, we wanted to be able to merge the idea of playing at high schools with helping out and serve a deeper purpose. We decided to marry the two ideas and start Rock- 4Hunger.”

The band has helped raise awareness of hunger in addition to donations, ac- cording to Anne Schenk, Gleaners Senior Director of Advancement.

They’ve played around 30 shows in Michigan and Mark said their work has provided more than 32,000 meals.

“We were really thrilled that Royal Hoax wanted to work with Gleaners on a long-term basis with Rock4Hunger,” Schenk said. “They’re great people– really enthusiastic about not only their music but helping Gleaners. We are really grateful for what Royal Hoax is doing and hope they keep it up.”

Unique promotion

The band has a passion for “hand and foot promoting” and interacting with fans, Mark said. They frequented the DTE parking lot before concerts, passing out music, as well as going to the mall to get word out.

According to Jake, Royal Hoax has passed out 6,500 albums in the Metro Detroit area.

“After being harassed and kicked out by security multiple times in the mall, we decided that we needed to do it legitimately and so the only way to do that was through a kiosk,” Mark said. “We took the risk and paid the astronomical monthly rental fee and it worked out — the cause helps, but the music speaks for itself. That’s what has allowed us to be successful.”

A little laugh

While their main focus is their music and philanthropy, the band also in- corporates humor and personality into their work. Their video “Shiver Shake” features a mall flash mob with a man in a giraffe costume leading the dance and interacting with the shoppers.

Jake bought the costume last minute for a Halloween party and thought it would be good for a video since people liked it. He said their sisters suggested the flash mob idea, so they combined the themes.

“Our sisters were pressing us to do a flash mob thing, so we just tried to do a spoof on a flash mob, dressing in costumes and implementing our natural personalities and random humor,” Jake said.

Contact Multimedia Reporter Stephanie Sokol via email at or follow her on Twitter @StephanieSokol